Planning research and survey methods: A relationship of dependence.

Authors: Meadhbh Maguire*, McGill University
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Quantitative Methods, Higher Education
Keywords: survey methods, urban planners, academia, questionnaires, research methods
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Cleveland 2, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Urban planning has an established history of using various forms of surveys, ranging from authoritative, statistical datasets such as the decennial census, to small scale local questionnaires. While academic planners have used this method in studies concerned with the construction or testing of theories, practicing planners have also used it to understand particular subjects, such as communities or neighborhoods, from which policy decisions can be made. Despite this history, there has been little critical assessment of the use of questionnaires as a tool for collecting data within planning, which sets it apart from other disciplines that have written extensively on how the method ought to be undertaken, often with the aim of alleviating biases. Consequently, there is little awareness of how recent advances in the method found within other fields can impact on planners’ data and the uses to which such data are put. This paper addresses this dilemma by firstly assessing the extent to which planning academics rely on questionnaires to contribute to knowledge, by reviewing all research articles published within seven journals, spanning the past decade. Amongst those who use questionnaires, the paper then uses content analysis within a subset of articles and critically examines how questionnaires are used, for what purposes they are used and the extent to which questionnaire limitations are acknowledged and mitigated. This project commences a necessary methodological critique of questionnaires within the field of planning, by establishing the present usage of questionnaires by academics.

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